Proactive Computing | Optimizing IT for usability, performance and reliability since 1997

Category: iphone android smartphone ipad (Page 2 of 18)

Auto Added by WPeMatico

When Is Android 11 Coming to My Phone, and How Do I Install It?

When a new version of Android is released into the world, the first question people ask is “when will my device get it?” The answer to that question is as complicated as the Android ecosystem itself.

Read This Article on How-To Geek ›

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Joe Fedewa

Kyvol Cybovac E30 Robot Vacuum: A Competent Cleaner with Floor Mapping Memory

kyvol cybovac e30 on charging dockSte Knight

The Cybovac E30 is a robot vacuum cleaner (RVC) that forms part of the new Kyvol range of semi-autonomous cleaning solutions. They have released three models: the E20 (vacuum), the E30 (vacuum), and the E31 (vacuum/mop hybrid). The E30 is their midrange option and, as such, has several features you would expect from such an RVC.

Retailing at $249, you actually get quite a bit for your hard-earned dollar. This is a seriously low price for a robot vacuum so I was genuinely curious to see how the E30 would perform when lined up to some of its competition. That competition is pretty stiff in a market that is becoming more and more saturated with like-for-like models, so the Cybovac has a lot to prove.

With all of that in consideration, let’s take a look at the performance of this cyborg chambermaid and see what all the fuss is about.

A Box of Tricks

We’re not talking Masked Magician level tricks, here, but the Cybovac E30 does come with some features that will make it stand out against other robot vacuums within the $249 price range. The box contains all you need to get started; you don’t actually need to use the Kyvol smartphone app which can be downloaded from the Google Play and Apple App stores, although that is an option.

Two AAA batteries manufactured by Sundy.Sundy; such a reliable brand

In the box, you get the Cybovac E30 vacuum, a power adapter, the charging dock, remote control with two AAA batteries (manufactured by Sundy; you know, the inventors of the Strollboy personal cassette player and the RecreationTerminal games console), two side brushes, instruction manual, the maintenance tool, a HEPA filter, and the boundary strips with 3m tape to stick it down.

In terms of dimensions, the vacuum is 325mm diameter x 73mm high. This means it should slip under sofas and such without a problem. It is always worth measuring this kind of space before you buy any robot cleaner; underneath the sofa is where most dust will accumulate, so you want to make sure the robot can get under there and give it a good clean.

In terms of its looks, you’re getting a circular robot vacuum that emulates the appearance of pretty much all of the other RVCs on the market. It comes in a black colorway with a high-luster plate at the top, complete with an attractive concentric circle design. The top houses the auto-start button and the charge button. The former will commence a clean, while the latter will send the vacuum to the charging dock. You will also find the Wi-Fi indicator next to the auto-start button.

kyvol cybovac e30 top controlsSte Knight

The front of the Cybovac houses the sensor for mapping your home. This is covered by a plastic bumper that absorbs any bumps or knocks that your vacuum may take during a clean. The back features the recess for the dustbin, which is capable of holding up to 0.6 liters of dust and is easily removed with a click of the orange clip. This is the average volume of dustbin for a robot vacuum where the dustbin clips into the back. The E31 hybrid model has the same-sized dustbin, which can be swapped out for the included mopping reservoir.

kyvol cybovac e30 undersideSte Knight

The belly of the beast is where the action all happens. We have all manner of gubbins on the underside, including (from front to back) the front drop sensor that prevents the vacuum from doing its best Slinky impression down the stairs, the universal balance wheel, the “hall sensors” that detect the magnetic boundary strips, the mount for one side brush (we’ll discuss this later), two more drop sensors, the drive wheels, dust inlet, the main brush, and the power switch.

In all, there isn’t really anything outstandingly different about the appearance of the E30, apart from the fact that it only has one side brush. We’ll talk about this when we discuss the performance of the machine later.

Just Get Vacuuming, Will You?

If you are a newbie where robot vacuums are concerned, then I’ll venture that you will like the Cybovac E30. As mentioned earlier, the vacuum can work with or without the Kyvol app. So, you don’t necessarily need to download it at all if you’re happy with just setting the vacuum off on its first clean.

Just pop the robot on the charger for its first full charge and, once that is done, you’re ready to send it off on a scouting mission. Once you’ve loaded the Sundy batteries into the remote, just hit start, and off the E30 will go to map the space it will be cleaning. It will complete a clean now as well, killing two birds with one stone. Note, if you don’t use the app, you won’t see the map that the E30 creates. Not that you really need to.

kyvol cybovac e30 remote controlSte Knight

If you do want to use the app, you need to connect the robot to your Wi-Fi, so it can speak to your phone. It will only connect to a 2.4 GHz band, so dual-band routers will need to have the signal split so it can recognize this. It uses the 2.4 GHz band, as that offers better stability through walls and floors etc.

Once you have connected to the app, it’s pretty much the same as using the remote control in terms of operating the vacuum. There is even a soft-remote within the app that sets the device off in exactly the same way as the remote control does. Simple, Simon!

The initial bedroom mapping/cleaning session took four minutes in all. I was kind of expecting this, as the same has been true with previous mapping robovacs I have reviewed. My house is small, so it was over and done with pretty sharpish. Overall, setting the device up is nice and simple, whether you decide to use the remote or the app.

It Vacuums … Well

So, how does the E30 perform in terms of vacuuming? Well, it has a whopping 2,200 Pa suction power so, with that in mind, it should make light work of any debris littering your floor. Even carpets shouldn’t be a bother for this kind of suction. But are they?

Well, apparently not. I threw the vacuum in at the deep end and set it to task in my upstairs space (which is essentially just two bedrooms). This area is carpeted, and it is also where the cats spend most of their day. They’re molting heavily at the moment, so the carpet needs to be vacuumed every day.

The dustbin once the first clean had taken placeThe dustbin once the first clean had taken place…. Ste Knight

The vacuum does an excellent job of cleaning the floor upstairs. It lifts the cat hair out of the pile with ease and sucked up any cobs of cat hair without even breaking a sweat. I had noticed a couple of strands of cotton on the carpet before I started the test clean and those were gone, too. So, it is great for carpets.

The E30’s performance was relatively good downstairs on the laminate floor. Most of the cat litter trails were gone, so that was great, and it made light work of most other dust and debris that was laying around. Like a novice Pokemon trainer, though, it didn’t catch ’em all and there were some bits randomly strewn across the floor, so I did need to then make use of the spot clean function where it hadn’t quite grabbed everything. It took 23 minutes in total; this time is in line with other robot vacuums I’ve used.

The vacuum cleans in a linear pattern, thanks to the gyroptic navigation (presumably a combination of a gyroscope and the optical mapping sensor, I’m guessing…). This offers a significantly more efficient clean than a vacuum that cleans in a random pattern. The Cybovac E20 is a vacuum that uses a random “bounce mode.” It is cheaper, and hence, why the E30 is the midrange model.

cybovac e30 single side brush nodeOnly one side brush node…. Ste Knight

There is one hang-up I have about the E30. I mean, I’m really flummoxed over this one. The E20—Kyvol’s lowest-priced vacuum—comes with two side brushes. However, both the E30 and the E31 come with only one side brush, with an optical flow sensor located where the other should be. I feel like they should have maybe placed the sensor somewhere else, as having only one brush means that the vacuum can only pick up debris that lies to the right-hand side of the vacuum. However, I also accept that this might not be possible.

This is why the cleaning downstairs wasn’t overly impressive, I’ll venture. It basically only has 50% of the dust-sweeping efficiency of a vacuum with two brushes. Aside from getting into corners, the brushes are supposed to sweep debris towards the vacuum inlet. If only one brush is present, it is logically only going to do half the work. I just wish that the more expensive models had two brushes.

Mid-Range Performance?

We do have mid-range performance with the Cybovac E30. It takes 6.5 hours to charge it from empty (which is what you are required to do when you first get it). That is a long time. However, you do get the full Kyvol-published 150 minutes of cleaning time out of the device once it’s fully charged.

a clean carpet with the linear mode shown by the carpet pileIf you look closely you can see the pattern left by the linear cleaning mode…. Ste Knight

Plus, once it is fully charged, unless you use it for the full 150 minutes, it will never fully run out of battery. It heads back to the charging dock of its own accord once a clean is complete. In my case, it took 4 minutes to clean my bedroom. This is only a small space, however, and is predominantly inhabited by the bed and sideboard.

The boundary tape certainly helps when it comes to the E30. It recognizes these on the floor via the hall sensors underneath. These prevent the vacuum from crossing over the boundary strip and into, say, a pile of wires or an expensive vase. That way you know both the vacuum and your belongings are safe from damage.

The remote control is decent, though. It has all the cleaning modes on there, plus it even displays the time on the display at the top. This is important as you can also use the remote to schedule cleans, meaning that it can clean when you’re not even at home, without you even having to interact with the E30. I’m a fan of this ability straight out of the box. It means you don’t even need the app. Speaking of which….

So … the App

E30 app select device E30 app map display E30 app soft controls

The first thing that annoyed me about the app was the fact that I need to create an account to use it. Had I not been reviewing this device, I genuinely wouldn’t have bothered with the app. Why do I need to register my details to clean my house? None of the other app-enabled RVCs I have reviewed require this—you just launch the app and connect the vacuum. So, that got my goat from the offset.

Once my abject rage had subsided (perhaps I’m exaggerating a little), I added my details and I was into the app. The first thing we are greeted with is the “Add Device” screen. This is pretty straightforward and connecting my smartphone to the vacuum wasn’t an issue. You just select the right model, and the app guides you through the setup process. Then you’re ready to direct the vacuum with the software.

The app is fairly light. It can show you a cleaning record, which features a map of the area it has cleaned, plus the size of the space it cleaned and the time taken. Aside from that, the only other real feature in the app is the soft remote.

I can’t help but feel the app is a little unnecessary. You have a remote control that you can use to direct the device, and you have boundary strips to block areas off. You can’t draw virtual walls on the map as with the OZMO T8, so this is more like a gimmicky remote control. I don’t really need to see a map of my room; I live in it, so I know the layout.

What’s the Verdict?

kyvol cybovac e30Ste Knight

The Cybovac E30 cleans relatively well. It doesn’t struggle with carpets or hard floors in terms of actually sucking the debris up. However, I feel it is hampered by the fact that it only has one side brush, and therefore, doesn’t pick everything up as you might like. The fact that the lower-end model has two brushes, while the mid- and top-end models don’t, is somewhat confusing.

I recently praised the simplicity of the Yeedi K700 (which can also mop, by the way) for not having an app. With a basic device, this just hampers matters and could make it seem less accessible to people who perhaps aren’t as techy as others. I feel like the Cybovac app isn’t necessary at all. You can schedule a clean (with the remote control) for the time you finish work so that, when you return, it is all clean and nicely vacuumed.

In all, the E30 does a relatively decent job of cleaning, but I do feel that there are other vacuums out there that are within the same price bracket, yet do a better job.

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Ste Knight

Microsoft Surface Duo review

In the early days, Microsoft had misgivings about calling the Surface Duo a phone. Asked to define it as such, the company has had the tendency to deflect with comments like, “Surface Duo does much more than make phone calls.” Which, to be fair, it does. And to also be fair, so do most phones. Heck, maybe the company is worried that the idea of a Microsoft Phone still leaves a bitter taste in some mouths.

The Duo is an ambitious device that is very much about Microsoft’s own ambitions with the Surface line. The company doesn’t simply want to be a hardware manufacturer — there are plenty of those in the world. It wants to be at the vanguard of how we use our devices, going forward. It’s a worthy pursuit in some respects.

After all, for all of the innovations we’ve seen in mobile in the past decade, the category feels static. Sure there’s 5G. Next-gen wireless was supposed to give the industry a temporary kick in the pants. That it hasn’t yet has more to do with external forces (the pandemic caught practically everyone off guard), but even so, it hardly represents some radical departure for mobile hardware.

What many manufacturers do seem to agree on is that the next breakthrough in mobile devices will be the ability to fit more screen real estate into one’s pocket. Mobile devices are currently brushing up against the upper threshold of hardware footprint, in terms of what we’re capable of holding in our hands and willing to carrying around in our pockets. Breakthroughs in recent years also appear to have gotten us close to a saturation point in terms of screen-to-body ratio.

Foldable screens are a compelling way forward. After years of promise, the technology finally arrived as screens appeared to be hitting an upper limit. Of course, Samsung’s Galaxy Fold stumbled out of the gate, leaving other devices like the Huawei Mate X scrambling. That product finally launched in China, but seemed to disappear from the conversation in the process. Motorola’s first foldable, meanwhile, was a flat-out dud.

Announced at a Surface event last year, the Duo takes an entirely different approach to the screen problem — one that has strengths and weaknesses when pitted against the current crop of foldables. The solution is a more robust one. The true pain point of foldables has always been the screen itself. Microsoft sidesteps this by simply connecting two screens. That introduces other problems, however, including a sizable gap and bezel combination that puts a decided damper on watching full-screen video.

Microsoft is far from the first company to take a dual-screen approach, of course. ZTE’s Axon M springs to mind. In that case — as with others — the device very much felt like two smartphones stuck together. Launched at the height of ZTE’s experimental phase, it felt like, at best, a shot in the dark. Microsoft, on the other hand, immediately sets its efforts apart with some really solid design. It’s clear that, unlike the ZTE product, the Duo was created from the ground up.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

The last time I wrote about the Duo, it was a “hands-on” that only focused on the device’s hardware. That was due, in part, to the fact that the software wasn’t quite ready at the time of writing. Microsoft was, however, excited to show off the hardware — and for good reason. This really looks and feels nice. Aesthetically, at least, this thing is terrific. It’s no wonder that this is the first device I’ve seen in a while that legitimately had the TechCrunch staff excited.

While the Surface Duo is, indeed, a phone, it’s one that represents exciting potential for the category. And equally importantly, it demonstrates that there is a way to do so without backing into the trappings of the first generation of foldables. In early briefings with the device, Surface lead Panos Panay devoted a LOT of time to breaking down the intricacies of the design decisions made here. To be fair, that’s partially because that’s pretty much his main deal, but I do honestly believe that the company had to engineer some breakthroughs here in order to get hardware that works exactly right, down to a fluid and solid hinge that maintains wired connections between the two displays.

There are, of course, trade-offs. The aforementioned gap between screens is probably the largest. This is primarily a problem when opening a single app across displays (a trick accomplished by dragging and dropping a window onto both screens in a single, fluid movement). This is likely part of the reason the company is positioning this is as far more of a productivity app than an entertainment one — in addition to all of the obvious trappings of a piece of Microsoft hardware.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

The company took great pains to ensure that two separate apps can open on each of the screens. And honestly, the gap is actually kind of a plus when multitasking with two apps open, creating a clear delineation between the two sides. And certain productivity apps make good use of the dual screens when spanning both. Take Gmail, which offers a full inbox on one side and the open selected message on the other. Ditto for using the Amazon app to read a book. Like the abandoned Courier project before it, this is really the perfect form factor for e-book reading — albeit still a bit small for more weary eyes.

There are other pragmatic considerations with the design choices here. The book design means there’s no screen on the exterior. The glass and mirror Windows logo looks lovely, but there’s no easy way to preview notifications. Keep in mind the new Galaxy Fold and Motorola Razr invested a fair amount in the front screen experience on their second-generation devices. Some will no doubt prefer to have a device that’s offline while closed, and I suppose you could always just keep the screens facing outward, if you so chose.

You’ll probably also want to keep the screens facing out if you’re someone who needs your device at the ready to snap a quick photo. Picture taking is really one of the biggest pain points here. There’s no rear camera. Instead, I’m convinced that the company sees most picture taking on the device as secondary to webcam functionality for things like teleconferencing. I do like that experience of having the device standing up and being able to speak into it handsfree (assuming your able to get it to appropriate eye level).

But when it came to walking around, snapping shots to test the camera, I really found myself fumbling around a lot here. You always feels like you’re between three and five steps away from taking a quick shot. And the fact of the matter is the shots aren’t great. The on-board camera also isn’t really up to the standards of a $1,400 device. Honestly, the whole thing feels like an afterthought. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled after using the Note 20’s camera for the last several weeks, but hopefully Microsoft will prioritize the camera a bit more the next go-round.

Another hardware disappointment for me is the size of the bezels. Microsoft says they’re essentially the minimal viable size so as to not make people accidentally trigger the touchscreen. Which, fair enough. But while it’s not a huge deal aesthetically, it makes the promise of two-hand typing when the device is in laptop mode close to impossible.

That was honestly one of the things I was excited for here. Instead, you’re stuck thumb-typing as you would on any standard smartphone. I have to admit, the Duo was significantly smaller in person than I imagined it would be, for better and worse. Those seeking a fuller typing experience will have to wait for the Neo.

The decision not to include 5G is a curious one. This seems to have been made, in part, over concerns around thinness and form factor. And while 5G isn’t exactly mainstream at this point in 2020, it’s important to attempt to future proof a $1,400 device as much as possible. This isn’t the kind of upgrade most of us make every year or so. By the time the cycle comes back around, LTE is going to feel pretty dated.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Battery life is pretty solid, owing to the inclusion of two separate batteries, each located beneath a screen. I was able to get about a day and a half of life — that’s also one of the advantages of not having 5G on board, I suppose. Performance also seemed solid for the most part, while working with multiple apps front and center. For whatever reason, however, the Bluetooth connection was lacking. I had all sorts of issues keeping both the Surface Buds and Pixel Buds connected, which can get extremely annoying when attempting to listen to a podcast.

These are the sorts of questions a second-generation device will seek to answer. Ditto for some of the experiential software stuff. There was some bugginess with some of the apps early on. A software update has gone a ways toward addressing much of that, but work needs to be done to offer a seamless dual-screen experience. Some apps like Spotify don’t do a great job spanning screens. Spacing gets weird, things require a bit of finessing on the part of the user. If the Duo proves a more popular form factor, third party developers will hopefully be more eager to fine tune things.

There were other issues, including the occasional blacked out screen on opening, though generally be resolved by closing and reopening the device. Also, Microsoft has opted to only allow one screen to be active at a time when they’re both positioned outward so as to avoid accidentally triggering the back of the touch screen. Switching between displays requires doubling tapping the inactive one.

But Microsoft has added a number of neat tricks like App Groups, which are a quick shortcut to fire up two apps at once. As for why Microsoft went with Android, rather than their own Windows 10, which is designed to be adaptable to a number of different form factors, the answer is refreshingly pragmatic and straightforward. Windows 10 just doesn’t have enough mobile apps. Microsoft clearly wants the Duo to serve as a proof of concept for this new form factor, though one questions whether the company will be able to sufficiently monetize the copycats.

For now, however, that means a lot more selection for the end user, including a ton of Google productivity apps. That’s an important plus given how few of us are tied exclusively to Microsoft productivity apps these days.

As with other experimental form factors, the first generation involves a fair bit of trial and error. Sure, Microsoft no doubt dogfooded the product in-house for a while, but you won’t get a really good idea of how most consumers interact with this manner of device — or precisely what they’re looking for. Six months from now, Microsoft will have a much better picture, and all of those ideas will go into refining the next generation product.

That said, the hardware does feels quite good for a first generation device — even if certain key sacrifices were made in the process. The software will almost certainly continue to be refined over the course of the next year as well. I’d wait a bit on picking it up for that reason alone. The question, ultimately becomes what the cost of early adoption is.

In the grand scheme of foldable devices, maybe $1,400 isn’t that much, perhaps. But compared to the vast majority of smartphone and tablet flagships out there, it’s a lot. Especially for something that still feels like a first generation work in progress. For now, it feels like a significant chunk of the price is invested in novelty and being an early adopter for a promising device.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Brian Heater

How to Download Files in Chrome on Android

There are plenty of reasons why you might need to download something using Chrome on Android. Maybe you found an image that you want to use as a wallpaper, or you need to download a PDF for work and you’re not near a computer. Whatever the case may be, it’s easy to do.

Read This Article on How-To Geek ›

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Joe Fedewa

Android 11 review: An incremental update that needs some polish

4aa23964-ef02-11ea-afdd-9adb84b4357a Android 11 is here, three months after the first public beta was released in June. Not much has changed since then — mostly fixes for some bugs and third-party app troubles, as well as a long-awaited built-in screen recorder. But for the majority…

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By:

Android 11 has arrived

Google today announced the launch of Android 11, the latest version of its mobile operating system. After a slightly longer public preview, users who own a select number of Pixel devices (starting with the Pixel 2), OnePlus, Xiaomi, OPPO or realme phones will now see the update roll out to their phones in the coming days, with others launching their updates over the next few months.

Android 11 isn’t a radical departure from what you’ve come to expect in recent years, but there are a number of interesting new user-facing updates here that mostly center around messaging, privacy and giving you better control over all of your smart devices.

At the core of the improved messaging and communication features are improved notifications for conversations from your messaging apps. These now live in a dedicated space at the top of the notification shade and feature a more “people-forward design,” as the company describes it. The new Bubbles API now also makes chat bubbles a core part of the Android messaging experience.

One addition feature Google lists under the communications section is screen recording, which is now finally a built-in tool that lets you record what’s happening on your screen, using either the sound from your mic, the device or both. Until now, you needed third-party apps like AZ Screen Recorder for this (and you will still need these for more advanced features like live streaming, for example).

Image Credits: Google

As for controlling your smart devices, Google notes how you now simply long-press your power button to get access to a new menu that gives you access to device controls (similar to what you’d find in the Google Home app, but with a different design), as well as payment methods and your boarding passes, for example. And yes, you can still restart and power off your device from there, too.

Media controls are getting a redesign, too, with the controls moving out of the notifications and to the quick settings bar instead. From there, it is now also easier to choose where you want to play your audio and video.

Over the last few years, the Android team added a number of privacy features to the operating system, but this clearly remains a moving target. With this update, the focus is on app permissions. It’s now easier to provide an app with one-time permissions to access your microphone, camera and location, helping you to ensure that an app won’t have perpetual access to your location, for example. After you haven’t used an app for a while, Android will also reset your permissions and you’ll have to re-grant access to the app the next time you launch it.

On the enterprise side, Google is also launching some new features to help employees who use some personal apps on their work phone keep their personal profile data and activity out of the hands of their company’s IT departments.

If you own a compatible phone, you should see an upgrade notification for Android 11 soon.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Frederic Lardinois

How to Insert Emoji in Microsoft Word Documents đź“ť

Emoji work basically anywhere these days, including in Microsoft Word documents. Jazz up your documents with colorful emoji icons that work on all modern operating systems, including Windows 10, macOS, iPhone, iPad, Android, and the web.

Read This Article on How-To Geek ›

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Chris Hoffman

Why You Shouldn’t Spend More Than $500 on Your Next Phone

The Pixel 4a with the display on, lying on a white backgroundThe Pixel 4a might be the best Pixel ever. And it’s $350. Cam

Flagship phones are great. They push innovation forward with (mostly) thoughtful improvements. But we’re at a point where even budget and midrange smartphones are generally impressive now, mostly thanks to trickle-down technology from their flagship brethren. The affordable phones of today are the flagships of yesterday.

High-end phones are how we end up with features that drive the industry forward. Things like Apple/Google Pay, fingerprint sensors, or computational photography that can make even subpar photos look incredible. These tools started out on the flagship phones of their day, but are now pretty much prolific on the majority of phones—even in the budget price range.

Of course, but sometimes you pay extra for “innovation” that you don’t actually need—like the Soli radar chip in the Pixel 4 and 4 XL, for example. Sure, it’s innovative and forward-thinking, but that doesn’t immediately make it useful. Almost every Pixel 4 owner I know disabled Motion Sense (the features that use the radar chip) almost immediately, and haven’t turned them back on. It’s a novelty.

But innovation works through experimentation. That’s why I’m still glad Google put the radar in a phone and tested the waters. If the rumors are true, the Pixel 5 won’t have this. Maybe because it was realized that it’s a novelty, and there wasn’t a lot more that could be done with it. Maybe it’s to get the price down. Who knows. Either way, it’s proof that trying new things is a gamble.

A screenshot from the Pixel website showing Motion Sense in actionMotion Sense on the Pixel 4 was an interesting innovation but a novelty nonetheless. Google

But I digress. The things that become mainstays and eventually make their way into more affordable smartphones become the foundations that we all rely on. And when you can get that sort of reliability from a phone that costs half that of a flagship, why pay more?

Affordable Phones Have Everything You Need…

“Need” is a funny word when talking about smartphones, especially when thinking about it in the most basic sense. By its very definition, “need” means to “require because it’s essential.” So, we’re only going to talk about things that most would consider essential in a smartphone.

What defines “essential” in a smartphone, anyway? Let’s think about a few key ingredients:

  • A great display. This is the first thing you see, and the very thing you’ll look at the most when you see your phone. It has to have a good display. This is non-negotiable.
  • A form of biometric security. Gone are the days of needing to type passwords or PINs to log into your phone or other apps. A fingerprint sensor or other form of biometric login is a must.
  • A good camera. They say the best camera is the one you have on you, and your smartphone pretty much fits that bill all the time. A good camera is now expected on all phones at every price point.
  • Usable performance. This means different things to different people, but at a minimum, you shouldn’t want to throw your phone across a room because it’s taking too long to load your favorite app.
  • Reliable and timely updates. An outdated phone is an insecure phone, period.

Let’s look at the iPhone SE and Pixel 4a for excellent examples. These are incredible phones for the respective operating systems.

The iPhone SE uses a slightly older design—a tried-and-true form factor that Apple uses for years. It skips newer (and more expensive) features, like Face ID, for the sometimes-preferred Touch ID fingerprint sensor in the home button. That was innovative during its time, and now it’s a tested feature that has made its way to the most affordable iPhone ever.

A screenshot from the Apple website showing the iPhone SE's Touch ID sensorThe iPhone SE champions the return of Touch ID, a tried-and-true form of biometric security. Apple

But it ticks all of the boxes above. It has a good display (even if it is on the smaller size respective of today’s popular phones), the aforementioned inclusion of touch ID, a very good camera, the fastest smartphone processor on the market today, and regular updates from Apple. Boom—all the needs, covered.

The same can be said for the Pixel 4a. Google took the most useful features from the Pixel lineup and baked them into a $350 smartphone. It has an excellent OLED display, Pixel Imprint (the fingerprint sensor), arguably the best camera on the market thanks to Google’s magic sauce, snappy performance, and monthly security updates from Google. All that in a $350 package. What else do you need?

The Pixel 4a showing astrophography modeThe Pixel 4a features astrophography mode. It can literally capture the stars. Google

…And Even Some of What You Want

Just because a phone falls within a certain budget or is considered “midrange” doesn’t mean it skimps on some excellent quality-of-life features. The SE is a great example here because it features wireless charging and an IP rating, which really sets it apart from the pack. I will be absolutely shocked if Google doesn’t follow suit with at least one of those features for next year’s assumed Pixel 5a. Probably both.

A screenshot from the Apple website highlighting the iPhone SE's water and dust resistanceThe iPhone SE has an IP67 rating. Apple

Just a few short years ago, these were both features that were reserved exclusively for flagship smartphones. But Apple put them into a device that starts at just $399.

The Pixel 4a also has something the iPhone SE doesn’t, however: a headphone jack. You won’t find this on many flagship phones today, so dropping to the budget/midrange category actually gets you something that’s missing on more expensive phones. The headphone jack is a big deal to a lot of people!

Modern Midrangers Are the Best Bang for Your Buck

A closeup of the Google logo on the back of the Pixel 4aCam

When it comes time to upgrade your smartphone, don’t disregard the midrange—this whole category has come a long way in 12-18 months. The Pixel “a” line and iPhone SE have changed how we think of affordable smartphones. Right now, the midrange might actually be the fastest-moving smartphone segment.

Plus, with all that money you saved, you can get yourself a smartwatch and some killer earbuds.

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Cameron Summerson

How to Set the “Do Not Disturb” Auto-Reply Message on iPhone

If you have “Do Not Disturb” enabled on your iPhone and someone sends you a text message, they may receive an “Auto-Reply” message as a response. Here’s how to configure that message and decide who gets to see it.

Read This Article on How-To Geek ›

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Benj Edwards

Here’s What to Do Before Recycling or Donating Your Gadgets 

Used electronics for recyclingDamrong Rattanapong/

If you’ve recently upgraded to a new phone, laptop, tablet, or anything similar, you’d probably like to do something proactive with the old one. Don’t just chuck it in the trash—give it to a friend or family member, donate it, or recycle it. But there are a few things you should do first.

Your primary concern is your privacy: You want to wipe all of your personal data off of a device before it gets to another user. There are fairly standard ways of doing this (a full reset), and more drastic measures if you’re worried about someone specifically seeking out used devices for nefarious reasons.

There are also a few safety concerns with older devices, particularly the battery. But that tends to be handled by the recycler. Assuming that your gadget is in working order, once you have your data and any extraneous parts removed, it’s time for it to go to a new home.

Step One: Backup and Delete Your Data

No matter what you’re passing on—a phone, a tablet, a laptop, a game console, pretty much any kind of modern electronics—you want to make sure that your personal data gets off of it first. Not only is this a privacy issue, but it’s also a matter of security: With even seemingly innocuous data like your name and phone number, an identity thief can begin a targeted harvest.

Windows reset settings dialog

Thankfully, pretty much all of those devices include an option to reset the machine, removing all of your personal data, along with stored files and programs. This takes a few minutes, but it’s fairly reliable and very easy.

First, back up any important data—on a phone or tablet, this is easy, as most of it’s already synced with your Apple, Google, or Amazon account. You’ll want to make sure photos, videos, music, and text messages are saved. Computers can be more complicated, as you’ll want to get a large amount of data—possibly all of it—off of the storage drive.

Our sister site How-To Geek has easy backup instructions for this process on all the most common platforms:

When you’ve got all of your data safely backed up, it’s time to reset your device. Here are the relevant guides:

If you want a more secure way of permanently deleting files and personal information, you’ll want to write over the storage of your device, thus ensuring that it can’t be recovered with various advanced tools. There are a few different ways to do this, but the most important platforms to consider here are Windows and macOS.

Step Two: Harvest (Or Destroy) Parts

When you’re ready to get rid of your gadget, be sure to remove every physical piece of it that comes out, too. For phones, this means SIM cards and MicroSD cards (if your phone supports them). On laptops and desktops, that means CDs, DVDs, camera cards, and of course, anything plugged into your USB ports. On game consoles, check for game discs, game cartridges, and storage cards.

Computers have an even more secure option: You can remove the storage drive. This is more complicated, and it will also remove the operating system, so you need to note that it isn’t functional if you’re selling or donating it. But removing the hard drive or SSD, and either destroying it yourself or simply disposing of it separately, greatly reduces the chance of anyone recovering any data from it.

A hard drive removed from a PCMichael Crider

Getting the storage drive out of a desktop computer is generally easy (though it can be tricky on small computers like the Mac Mini or the iMac). Getting it out of a laptop is much more difficult, and may not be possible with standard tools if it’s a newer ultra-thin model with the storage soldered to the motherboard. Do some Google searching in either case to see if you can handle it.

You might be able to use other removable parts in a computer, too, especially graphics cards from gaming desktops. But odds are that if you’re ready to sell or recycle a computer, there’s not much in it that will be useful in a new one. If you’re sending the computer on to a new user—either donating it or giving it to a friend—make sure to give it to them in a condition that’s useful.

So if you’re donating a computer somewhere, leave the storage and the OS there after you’ve got your data off, unless you know that the organization can repair computers itself. If you’re giving a computer to someone less tech-savvy, you’ll probably want to leave it in working order, too. If someone’s just looking for the parts, or has the parts and the know-how to fix it, feel free to harvest those pieces.

Cleaning Up

If you’re passing something on to a new user or donating it, the polite thing to do is make sure it’s in the best condition possible. You’ve done that in terms of software, now it’s time to look after the hardware.

Woman cleaning cell phoneProgressman/

Dusting your gadget, and maybe cleaning some of the gunk out of its nooks and crannies with some isopropyl alcohol couldn’t hurt. If your gadget is particularly dirty or grimy, you might want to go after it with a toothbrush (making sure to avoid getting water in any vulnerable ports, of course). Keyboards and mice can get especially yucky because they’re constantly being touched: There’s a more involved process to fully cleaning and disinfecting them.

Where to Donate and Recycle

Ready to get rid of some stuff? There are plenty of places to donate items, and many electronics stores like Best Buy will collect electronics for recycling for free. Your local municipal waste or recycling service may also offer free electronics recycling—they make a small amount of money by passing on e-waste to industrial recycling companies.

If your gadget is in a fully working order, consider donating it to organizations that can distribute electronics to those who need them. There are tons of these, at least one of which is almost certainly near you: schools, churches and other religious organizations, or homeless and needy programs. Even senior centers and retirement homes often have a need for electronics of all kinds—tablets and laptops in particular.

If you’re unsure if the place you’re going is accepting your item, just call and ask—someone will tell you if they can use it, and if not, probably direct you on where to go instead. If all else fails, organizations like the Red Cross, Goodwill, and the Salvation Army will usually take almost anything that’s working and made within the last decade or so.

Those who prefer to donate to non-religious organizations may have some very curtailed options. You should search for charities looking for donations in the nearest large city; pressing needs for donations are often covered in the local newspaper, or shared on social hubs like Facebook and Nextdoor.

And remember, you can always ask your friends or family if they want or need the stuff you can’t use anymore. Even if they don’t, they might know someone who does.

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Michael Crider

« Older posts Newer posts »